Coaching in the NBA is as much about psychology as it is about inbounds plays or game plans. While Bill Belichick schemes his way to Super Bowl's, Steve Kerr's spent the last three years balancing the delicate egos of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Steph Curry. Kerr's bashed regularly because "anybody could've won with that talent," but how many coaches could've gotten burner-account Durant and nut-punch Draymond to get along for 256 games? I mean, we praise Brad Stevens as one of the NBA's best, but he couldn't make it work with Kyrie Irving for more than two years. You can tell me Irving's a head-case, but NBA coaching has become about managing head-cases until they take you to The NBA Finals.
By the way, what made Phil Jackson great was not the "triangle offense." It was getting Michael Jordan to be a better teammate, and convincing Kobe Bryant to be more disciplined.
So, while Monty Williams has certainly given the Suns a more legitimate on-court look, and while Devin Booker continues to praise his mantras, the most important aspect of Monty Williams may be his role as psychologist for Deandre Ayton. I'm not worried about Devin Booker's maturity. He's a true pro. I'm not worried about scheme, scheme doesn't win championships. I'm worried about getting the most out of the player with the highest ceiling, and most questionable maturity level on this Suns roster.
Ayton's gifted, obviously. He came back from a PED suspension last night to drop 18 points in 24 minutes against the title-favorite Clippers. Which is great, except for the fact that he's coming back from, you know, a PED suspension. Like so many young, gifted NBA players, it's not about talent with Ayton, it's about maturity.
Here's something we never talk about: The average age of both NFL and NBA rookies is about 22 years old. But, NFL players are only asked to play 16 games per season. An NFL player would have to play five seasons to fill one season of NBA inventory (82 games). Ayton, now in year two, is asked to show up night, after night, after night. The NFL's also the most dependent league we have. Receivers depend on the quarterback, who depends on the offensive line, who depend on each other. There's always someone to blame. In the NBA, if Ayton doesn't show up on defense, that's on him.
But unlike Devin Booker, who maneuvered masterfully through four years of volatility mostly on his own, Deandre Ayton won't have to fly solo. Culture and maturity are what Monty Williams is known for. He's been through tragedy, he's respected league-wide for his character, and he's already guided the fledgling years of the NBA's best big man, Anthony Davis, during their days together with the Pelicans.
Last night was a good start for Ayton. But if the Suns are going to get to where they want to be, he'll need to do it over, and over, and over again. It's on Monty Williams to play psychologist through it all, the same way it was on Steve Kerr, the same way it was on Phil Jackson.